By Ian Dipple Thursday 29 August 2013 Updated: 30/08 15:31
BROMSGROVE is at risk of becoming a town of commuters and retired people if efforts are not stepped up to solve the district’s housing crisis.
Mike Brown, chief executive of Bromsgrove District Housing Trust (bdht), issued the warning as figures revealed homelessness is on the rise.
Over the last four years the number of people officially classed as homeless has increased by almost a quarter from 63 to 78. But the scale of the problem is larger as the figures only include those within 28 days of losing their home. Over the same period support has been given to 749 people to prevent them becoming homeless, through negotiating with mortgage lenders or landlords or other measures.
The rise is being driven by the recession, a lack of affordable housing and the Government’s welfare reforms, which is particularly hitting the private rental market.
Changes to the amount paid out in housing benefit has left claimants between £10 and over £50 a week worse off, while more and more landlords are either selling up because of the financial climate or being deterred from taking people on housing benefit because of the reforms.
When coupled with the so-called Bedroom Tax and the benefits cap, the district’s 3,730 housing benefit claimants have been collectively left more than £21,500 a week worse off. The Government has given the council over £90,000 in Discretionary Housing Payments to limit the impact of the changes on people as they see fit, but it equates to just £1,738 a week to spend.
Mr Brown told The Standard: “We are very worried these pressures, combined with the slowdown in supply of new homes for rent, mean we are not able to help those working people in Bromsgrove who are in low paid work and need to access homes at a rent they can afford.
“Bromsgrove relies upon its shop workers, teaching assistants and the many others who make the town function.
"Without them we will become a community made up of commuters and those who have retired.”
But Coun Del Booth, responsible for strategic housing on Bromsgrove District Council, said they had to focus on getting the most out of existing housing provision as well as building new homes, while bdht had a successful track record in preventing homelessness by intervening early.
“Reassuringly, access to the private rented sector is also looking healthy via the Step Up scheme,” he said.
“The council continues to provide financial support to a wide range of partner agencies to tackle homelessness, while steps have also been taken to help local people adjust to the latest welfare reform changes.
"For example, households are being supported by bdht to downsize where possible.
“We are also very keen to help local people into home ownership, so the council continues to invest in the development of affordable housing in the district.”
Bromsgrove MP Sajid Javid said: "Homelessness is unacceptable in our society and a pressing concern.
"As a Government we are tackling this problem by investing £470million to help local authorities prevent homelessness as well as working with the private sector on a number of schemes.
"We're also building more affordable homes.
"The total number fell by a shocking 420,000 under the previous Government but, reassuringly, are already up by over 150,000 since 2010."
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